Dec. 9, 2010
Contact: Annette Powers
New York, December 9, 2010 -- ARZA (Association of Reform Zionists of America) reacts with alarm to a recent report that 50 leading Israeli municipal chief rabbis, all employed by the State of Israel, have signed on to a religious ruling that forbids renting homes to gentiles--a move particularly aimed against Arabs. This ruling comes just months after the Chief Rabbi of Safed initiated a call urging Jews to refrain from renting or selling apartments to non-Jews.
The Israeli Knesset has recently reviewed a number of bills designed to insure that the country remains a Jewish state by isolating Israel's Arab population. Statements by some of the chief rabbis make clear their motives: "We don't need to help Arabs set down roots in Israel," said Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of the Beit El settlement. "Racism originated in the Torah," said Rabbi Yosef Scheinen, who heads the Ashdod Yeshiva. He added that he did not see the move as racist so much as segregationist.
ARZA recognizes with pride the work of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) in opposing this statement and others through public protest and legal action.
ARZA calls upon all relevant Israeli governmental bodies to reject and condemn the statement of the chief rabbis. And, we praise those Israeli Orthodox rabbis who have openly criticized the ruling of their colleagues, as well as Israeli politicians who have strongly condemned this statement. Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that it was forbidden for such comments to be made in a democratic state, "especially in a Jewish democratic state that respects Jewish tradition and the Bible."
We hope and pray that all Israelis, no matter their political affiliation or religious practice, will take to heart the words of the Israeli Declaration of Independence that calls upon "…the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship.”
“At the very moment when Israel's very existence is being questioned, Israel must not add fuel to that fire by allowing statements or acts that are racist in nature,” said Rabbi Robert Orkand, President, ARZA. “These comments are completely contrary to our understanding of what the founders of Israel meant when they spoke of a Democratic Jewish state.”